Who doesn’t love watching a series that tells the true-life (or at least somewhat true-life) stories of real people? That’s what HBO’s hit series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” provides for NBA fans, Angelenos and TV viewers alike.
“Winning Time” doesn’t feature any of the real-life people that the series depicts, though some of the actors bear striking resemblances to their counterparts.
The show has a massive cast, with Quincy Isaiah (Earvin “Magic” Johnson”), John C. Reilly (Jerry Buss), Adrien Brody (Pat Riley) and others taking center stage as leads. There were also newcomers who stepped onto the court as guest stars for the second season, included Joel Allen as Kurt Rambis, Jay Davis as Byron Scott, Quentin Shropshire as James Worthy, Matthew Barnes as Mitch Kupchak, Darryl Reynolds as Robert Parish, Andrew Stephens as Kevin McHale and Larry C. Fields III as Eddie Jordan.
Other returning stars include Newton Mayenge as Jim Chones; Stephen Adly Guirgis, who plays Frank Marian; Joey Brooks, who plays Lon Rosen; Molly Gordon, who plays Linda Zafrani, Austin Aaron, who plays Mark Landsberger; Jimel Atkins who plays Jamaal Wilkes; Rob Morgan, who plays Earvin Sr.; Andy Hirsch, who plays David Stern; McCabe Slye, who plays Jimmy Buss; Gillian Jacobs who plays Chris Riley and Lola Kirke, who plays Karen West.
Here are the actors in character next to their real-life counterparts.
John C. Reilly as Dr. Jerry Buss, and the real Jerry Buss
A self-made millionaire, Dr. Jerry Buss was the catalyst of the Lakers’ dynamic Showtime Era after he bought the team in 1979. The former chemist and businessman is portrayed on screen on by John C. Reilly, whose resume is jam-packed with TV series and films including “Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule,” “Step Brothers,” and “Chicago.”
Quincy Isaiah as Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the real Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is regarded as one of the stars of the Lakers’ Showtime Era after he was a first-round draft pick in 1979. Hollywood newcomer Quincy Isaiah was cast to play Johnson; his other acting credits include a short called “Corporate Coffee,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and “Grassland,” which is currently in production.
Jason Clarke as Jerry West, and the real Jerry West
Australian actor Jason Clarke took on the role of Jerry West, a former Lakers player turned general manager for the team. West helped the Lakers earn five championship rings during ‘80s. In the first season of “Winning Time,” viewers see West’s journey as head coach and what happens after he quits. Clark’s previous roles include “Terminator Genisys,” “Lawless,” “Everest” and “Pet Sematary.”
Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the real Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Solomon Hughes plays six-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who the Lakers traded for in 1975. He also earned six MVPs during his 20-year-long career. Prior to “Winning Time,” Hughes appeared on the series “Burning Questions” and is set to star in “Guns Up.”
Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, and the real Pat Riley
Coming back to reprise his role as Lakers head coach Pat Riley in “Winning Time’s” second season is Adrien Brody. Riley led the team to four NBA championships, and became known for his confident coaching style which ultimately influenced the ’80s era of basketball and pop culture.
As for Brody, he won an Academy Award at age 29 for his performance as Władysław Szpilman in Roman Polanski’s war drama “The Pianist,” becoming the youngest actor to win in that category. Some of his other projects include “Detachment,” “King Kong” and “Splice.”
DeVaughn Nixon as Norm Nixon and the real Norm Nixon
From playing Whitney Houston’s son in “The Bodyguard” to playing one of the biggest street gang members in FX’s “Snowfall,” DeVaughn Nixon returns to portray his real-life father Norm Nixon.
The charming point guard — nicknamed “Stormin’ Norman — beat the odds and became an all-star on the team, but his stardom takes somewhat of backseat when rookie Magic Johnson hits the scene. He’s a two-time NBA champ.
Nixon’s other projects include “Prom,” “Sugar Hill” and “To Sleep with Anger.”
Hadley Robinson as Jeanie Buss, and the real Jeanie Buss
Ambitious, smart and ready to make a name for herself is the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jeanie Buss. Buss is currently the president and controlling owner of the Lakers, as well as the co-owner and promoter of the U.S. women’s professional wrestling organization Women of Wrestling.
She’s played by Hadley Robinson, who previously starred in “Moxie,” “The Pale Blue Eye” and “Anyone But You.”
Tamera Tomakili as Earleatha “Cookie” Johnson, and the real Earleatha “Cookie” Johnson
Earleatha “Cookie” Johnson, played by Tamera Tomakili, met her college sweetheart “Magic” Johnson before he became a global on-court superstar. During their time together, the couple must overcome fame and long distance.
Tomakili’s most notable roles were in “Fruitvale Station” and “Moonshine.”
Michael Chiklis as Red Auerbach and the real Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach is the coach for the Boston Celtics, and won the team nine NBA championships. When he transitioned into the team’s general manager he got them seven more. During his career, Auerbach also served as head coach of the Washington Capitols and Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
Michael Chiklis takes on the role of Auerbach; his previous roles include his long run on “The Shield,” “Coyote,” and “Fantastic Four.”
Jason Segal as Paul Westhead, and the real Paul Westhead
Trading out his career as a Shakespeare professor for a position as the Lakers’ assistant coach is Paul Westhead. When Earvin “Magic” Johnson asked to be traded due to him taking issue with Westhead’s new offensive system, the team dropped Westhead as head coach less than 24 hours later.
He’s played by Jason Segel, whose projects in film include “Windfall,” “This is 40,” and “The Friend.”
Spencer Garrett as Chick Hearn, and the real Chick Hearn
The creator behind the popular basketball jargons “slam dunk,” “airball” and “no-look pass,” Hearn was the legendary Lakers announcer.
Before Spencer Garrett stepped into the role of Hearn, his most notable projects include “The Truth About Juliet,” “Below the Beltway,” and “Ashes to Ashes.”
Brett Cullen as Bill Sharman, and the real Bill Sharman
Bill Sharman has done it all. He was a former NBA player, a Lakers head coach, a general manager and was the Lakers president in 1985, 1987 and 1998. Sharman is played by Brett Cullen, whose credits include “Narcos” and “The Blacklist.”
Delante Desouza as Michael Cooper, and the real Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper joined the Lakers before its Showtime Era in 1978 and played until 1990. He made his way back to the Lakers in the a new form serving on Jerry West’s managerial team, and eventually Magic Johnson’s coaching staff. He’s played by newbie Delante Desouza. Before “Winning Time,” Desouza starred in the short film “Distorted Reality.”
Larry Bird and “Magic” Johnson have been on-court foes since their legendary NCAA championship battle, which was the catalyst to what would be a decade-long rivalry. Bird is a true basketball sensation though he evades the public eye. He’s regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.
Bird is played by Sean Patrick Small, who previously starred in the short “The Just.”
Joining the cast for the second season is Joel Allen, who plays Kurt Kambis. Greek native Kambis signed on with the Lakers as a free agent in 1981, helping the team win four championships. Kambis stepped off the court and out of the ball game completely in 1995, and moved transitioned into a coaching career. Some of Allen’s previous acting work was on “Room 104,” “Never Goin’ Back” and “The Purge.”
Prior to her time as a pop star, Paula Abdul joined the Laker Girls cheerleading squad, and within the same year became the team’s head choreographer all while still attending Van Nuys High School as a student. Carina Conti plays the “Opposites Attract” singer. Before “Winning Time,” Conti starred in the short “Glimpse,” and she has a recurring role in “Good Trouble.”
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